WASHINGTON (Sep. 12)
In the wake of the attribution of a call for greater Jewish support of the Vietnam war to President Lyndon B. Johnson by a Jewish War Veterans delegation which met with him last week, the President invited leaders of B’nai B’rith to the White House.
After an hour-long meeting with President Johnson, Dr. William A. Wexler, president of B’nai B’rith, issued the following formal statement on views attributed to President Johnson by the Jewish War Veterans delegation. Dr. Wexler said:
B’nai B’rith places little credence in the validity of the statements attributed to President Johnson in which the Administration’s support of aid to Israel was equated with a presumed attitude of the American Jewish community toward the war in Vietnam. We also find no reason to accept as substantive the publicized statements which interpreted the President as having expressed a near-blanket indictment of Jewish organizations for a supposed view on the Vietnam issue.
“Rabbi Jay Kaufman, executive vice-president of B’nai B’rith, and I met with the President on Saturday evening. It is our belief that the President’s views were either misunderstood or poorly interpreted to the news media. It is evident to us that the views attributed to the President conveyed neither his attitude nor his convictions.
JWV’S INFERENCE TERMED ‘INACCURATE’ AND ‘UNFORTUNATE’
“The inference of an interrelationship between future American-Israeli affairs and support among Jewish organizations for Administration policies in Vietnam appears to us to have been as inaccurate as it was unfortunate. It was an inference wholly inconsistent with Mr. Johnson’s long-standing views regarding United States relations with Israel. His record, dating back to his service as Senator and Majority Leader, has been consistently predicated on a spirit of friendship and mutuality between the two nations; his actions, consonant with our national interest in reducing political tensions and the threat of war in the Middle East, have been productive.
“Implicit in the publicized statements was a contention that most Jewish organizations do not support United States policy in Vietnam. There is no real basis for such an inference. In the view of B’nai B’rith, it is inaccurate to speak of a distinctly Jewish viewpoint on Vietnam. There is none as such. The fact is: Most Jewish organizations have adopted no formal views or policies on Vietnam.
“Among those that have, only a few have taken a pro or con position on the opposing views of American escalation of or withdrawal from the war. Even here, there exist strong differences of opinion within the constituencies of these organizations. B’nai B’rith supports the principle of the right of small nations to the integrity of their independence and to pursue their own destiny.
DIFFERING VIEWPOINTS OF JEWISH GROUPS ON VIETNAM EXPLAINED
“We believe that the major powers have a moral responsibility to preserve that integrity and freedom, and we are concerned — as we understand the President to be –that a neo-isolationist mood can threaten to negate this principle.
“The differing viewpoints and the absence of definitive positions by most Jewish groups appear to us to demonstrate an ambivalence among American Jews that is parallel with and a part of the uncertainties and division of thought and attitude evident in the Congress, the religious community, other elements of our society and the citizenry as a whole.
“Jewish organizations have been nearly unanimous on a single, corollary aspect of the Vietnam crisis — the right of and need for those who disagree with Administration policy to express their dissent freely and, of equal importance, responsibly. Support of this basic American principle was demonstrated at the National Community Relations Advisory Council meeting in Washington in June.
“The resolution subscribed by the participating Jewish groups affirmatively supported and quoted President Johnson’s expressed view that no American, young or old, must ever be denied the right to dissent. No minority must be muzzled. Opinion and protest are the life breath of democracy — even when it blows heavy. It is regrettable that this resolution has been, at times, misinterpreted or distorted to imply a Jewish viewpoint on the Vietnam issue itself. The resolution dealt singularly and exclusively with the right of dissent. It did not in any way either express adverse judgment or endorsement of Administration policy in Vietnam.”